Sunday, January 30, 2011

I'm Not Sure If This is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing

In the airport today, waiting for a flight.

In the row of seats back-to-back to mine:  a woman and her daughter.  The daughter is reading aloud -- one of those Percy Jackson books.

Mom helps her with some of the hard words, but the kid is doing pretty well.  Eventually, she gets tired of reading, so mom reads aloud to her.

And mispronounces words.  

OK, I'll give you that "caduceus" might be one you don't see every day, but there were some other words that I think an educated human being ought to be able to get through without sounding them out.  I mean, I assumed that the kid was reading the book because it was assigned in school -- which would mean that she is expected to be on top of all the words in the book.  Is it too much to hope that her mother will know them well enough to help her out?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Damn You, Angry Birds!!!

Yeah, OK, I've had all of three games on my Droid pretty much from the beginning.  I like having a few games there -- they're good for killing time when I'm waiting in line someplace.  None have been major time-eaters, though.  

However, it was only recently that Angry Birds became available for the Droid.  I'd heard about Angry Birds.  Heard it was fun.  Heard it was addicting.

Dude.  I need a 12-step group.

I think I've had it for three days.  At least two of which, I was up very late playing "just one more level."  (Apparently, I'm not all that good at Angry Birds, as it can take me quite some time to actually nail said level.)

I knew it was getting ahead of me last night, when I hadn't accomplished anything on my list of "Shit to Do," because I'd wasted too much time with Angry Birds.  So, I made myself a promise that I wouldn't play Angry Birds at all today.

This promise lasted till about 5:30.  Was meeting some friends at a restaurant, and they were a bit late.  So I'm standing out there waiting for them, and I think, "Well, OK, just until they get here."

Famous last words.

It did not help at all that one of the friends I was meeting was similarly addicted.  Seriously.  When we met up, I was talking with the wife, while the husband was focussing intently on his cell phone.  "Working?"  I asked.  He turned the phone so I could see ... Angry Birds.  I nodded understandingly.  Soooo understandingly.

When I got home tonight, I went back to finish off that level I'd been playing outside the restaurant.  Because, you see, I'd made progress out there -- I'd figured out what I had to hit (with my first bird) in order to clear the level.  So, all I had to do was actually hit it.  (Required a certain level of precision in my bird-aiming.)  But, still, I figured I could just knock the level off and then set the game aside.

Again:  famous last words.  Finished that level and the next one looked really easy.  It was; I got it in two tries.  Next level seemed easy too; annoying pigs dispatched with great rapidity.  Next level was challenging.  Hmmm.  How to accomplish this.

9:00 had somehow turned to 11:30.  Vague thoughts about laundry, bills, that review I was supposed to write, my housekeeper's W-2, and everything else on my "Shit to Do" list started percolating, and I wondered exactly how much of that I could get done between now and midnight ... or if I was just going to have to start the work week with a nasty sleep debt.

(Angry Birds reluctantly put down.  Not out of any sense of responsibility ... more that I'm getting a headache and my aim was starting to suck.)

Let's try this again:  Tomorrow, there shall be no Angry Birds.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wonder What the City Wants

The City knows I live here.  I bought this place two years ago.  The City bills me for electricity, water, and trash pick up.  I also had to give the City a copy of my deed to the property so that I could get the building permits for the remodelling before I moved in.  What I'm saying is:  The City knows I live here.

Which is why I was confused when, two days ago, I received in my mail a "pick up a certified letter at the post office" notice, addressed to the prior owners, indicating it was from the City.

I left the notice for my mail carrier with a polite note saying to return the letter to sender, and noting the prior owners' new address.  (Which isn't in the same City, so I have no idea if the City has any business with them now.)

I pondered the notice long and hard and thought ... alarm permit renewal.  When I bought the place, the prior owner told me they had a permit for the alarm system, and I think it had two years left on it.  The City probably wants the renewal paid.  The City might have failed to notice that (since the damn things are non-transferable), I actually got a new alarm permit when I moved in (good through 2013).  So, I figured the certified letter from the City would probably be the "Hey, you didn't pay for your alarm permit renewal" letter to the prior owner.

Excepting, two days later, I received in the mail, addressed to the prior owner, a non-certified letter from the City permit department which was (as I easily discovered, since the envelope was conveniently unsealed) a bill for their alarm permit renewal.

So.  I still don't know what the City wanted (on a certified basis) from the prior owner -- and whether it was actually applicable to me.  I'm sure I'll find out, soon enough, if the City resends it to me.  

I just can't think that anything the City would take the trouble to send via certified mail, return receipt requested, could possibly be a good thing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Day at Work

I may have mentioned that I'm good at my job.  I like my job, and I do take pride in being good at it.  Still, it's not all happy fun time.  Sometimes, I'm reading something boring, or writing something that just freakin' won't write, and it drives me up the wall, and I'll want to do anything but what I have to do.  And then, other times, you'll get a day like today, where I was actually eager to get to the office and, after having the thoughts about what I was going to write percolating around my brain over the three-day weekend, about twenty pages of well-reasoned legal argument just poured forth.  I was, as they say, on a roll.  Hardly even noticed that the clock was hitting 6:30 and everyone else had left.

Man, I love days like today.  I don't even mind staying late.  (I'd have set an alarm if I had someplace to be.)  But just being able write something that I know is pretty darned good -- I dig that.

I used to get the same feeling in school, when I'd look at the question on a final exam and realize "I so know this," and then I would genuinely have fun writing my essay.  I knew the material, and the professor would soon know that I knew the material ... so I might as well have a good time conveying that fact to the professor.  I loved that.

You couldn't get that playfulness with Math.  And in case you hadn't noticed, I love Math.  I majored in it.  Largely because I could get A's in it.  Math is predicatable.  Numbers do what they're supposed to do.  (And if they don't, you're doing it wrong -- so you can go back and figure out where the mistake was.)  I preferred Math exams to essay exams because there was nothing subjective involved in grading a Math test.  You can't really argue that you deserved an A rather than a B on an essay -- but if you got the right answer in Math, you win.  (I did argue a Math grade once.  The T.A. was pretty ticked that there was a whole line of students outside his office complaining about their grades on the exam.  I waited my turn and when he, somewhat annoyed, asked me what my problem was -- expecting me to try to argue for partial credit on something I got wrong, I politely pointed out that he'd added my score wrong.)  The point, though:  there's no real arguing in Math -- it is what it is.

The downside, though, is that there isn't a ton of creativity to it, either.  Don't get me wrong, I used to love finding a particularly elegant proof for something -- but it wasn't like I created that proof.  Tons of mathematicians were ahead of me on that.  I'd enjoyed repeating their discovery (and discovering for myself that it worked), but there wasn't a whole lot of making shit up in Math.

But writing -- yeah, writing can be new, and phrasing can be elegant.  And legal writing is about being persuasive.  Sure, I craft an argument solidly based on precedent, but the fun comes in picking just the right words to express it.  If it do it right, I have the reader on my side with the first sentence; if I do it wrong, the reader fights me all the way and, at best, reluctantly accepts my conclusion.  So I've got to pick the right words.  I know the argument I'm making.  I know where I'm going to start and where I'm going to end up.  But how to make it so that the reader thinks, "Well, of course that's true" -- that's where it's fun.  And when I'm doing it, that's when I love my job.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I ate an orange today.

This filled me with much excitement, as the orange came from a tree in my backyard.  I've had the house for about two years now -- while the lemon tree has provided much fruit, this is the first time I've seen any action on the orange tree.

This is cause for celebration.  I haven't done much with the lemons -- I generally give them to a friend who uses them to bake yummy desserts (which she then shares with me), and, once, they helped out a platter of cold shrimp.  But, basically, I don't have much use for lemons.

Oranges though ... I can eat them.  And I did.

There is a bizarre sort of satisfaction that comes from eating fruit that grew on your own land.  Sure, I could buy some oranges -- and for a hell of a lot less than the house cost.  But I'm very happy to know that my property can provide me sustenance.  And, apparently, prevent me from getting scurvy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

World's Cheapest Wardrobe Makeover

Project:  Go in your closet, find something you never wear, and build an outfit around it.

(Project was motivated by my attempt to return some stuff to my local Eddie Bauer store, only to find they'd closed the store -- and the nearest store was now about 40 miles away.  I have a feeling that they're thinking they can just switch to catalog and internet sales.  Dudes, one of the main reasons I bought from you over the internet was because I could return stuff to the store without having to pay return shipping.  There will be way fewer purchases if I have to be certain I'll keep something or else risk an additional shipping fee.)

The point, though.  I was now in possession of two, form-fitting, scoop-neck shirts I'd intended to return because the neck was a wee bit too scoopy for the office.  The mission:  make them work.  The solution:  Wear a tank top underneath, peeking out a bit over the scoop-neck.  Problem solved.  I actually got complimented on it.

Buoyed by this success, I moved on to the Victoria's Secret stuff -- that would be the three sweaters (still in their shipping bags) at the top of my closet, waiting for a garage sale or eBay or something.  Figured I'd try them on.  The long red jackety one worked immediately.  The very very long "boyfriend" sweater can work with a mini-skirt and a belt.  The third one ... yeah, that one still blows.  But still, two "new" pieces for my wardrobe.

I even braved a nice little green cardigan which hadn't seen the light of day in over a year.  When a co-worker said, "I love that sweater; is it new?" I proudly confessed, "No, I've had it for years -- just haven't worn it."

I feel like I just bought a bunch of new clothes, but it didn't cost me anything.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

... And Happy New Year

Yeah, things have been getting ahead of me again -- and when they do, the blogging is one of the first things to go.  Sorry about that.

Today's Homeowner Story...

Came home last night around 10:00 -- after a friend's retirement party (oh man, my friends are retiring now).  Now, I have lights on my garage, and they were on, like they're supposed to be.  But I also have two motion-sensor lights -- one near my front door and one on the side of the house near the trash bins -- and they were on too.  Like they most definitely were not supposed to be.  The lights are set to go off after five minutes.  So, I reasoned, there must have been motion on the side of my house and near the front door within the last five minutes.  (Now, maybe the wind rustling trees could have set off the one on the side, but there are no trees near the front door.)


I pulled my car into the garage -- I was nearly in anyway when I noticed the lights.  Didn't walk in the house yet, though.  Figured I'd investigate a bit.

Walked toward the front door.  Heard the cat.  This was very reassuring.  First, it meant the cat was alive.  Second, it meant the cat wasn't hiding in a closet someplace, which is her instinctual reaction when anything remotely unknown is anywhere near.

Walked around to the side of the house near the trash bins.  Checked the windows.  All seemed quiet and undisturbed.  Peeked around to the backyard, but figured that actually walking around back there in the dark was probably more stupid than going into the house, at this point.

Went back to the garage and considered my options.

Ah.  The garage.  Full of tools.  Tried to decide how best to arm myself for entry.  Hammer seemed the most obvious option, but if there were some bad guys in the house, I really wondered what good I'd do with a hammer.  Hammers are so short range.  Not that you couldn't take someone out with a hammer, but you'd have to be quick and committed.  My rational brain asked me if I really thought I could take out someone bigger than me with a hammer, or if, instead, it was more likely that I'd be disarmed.

Decided to rely on the fact that the cat seemed unfazed to just go in unarmed. 

There was something else.  The light by the front door was still on, and it seemed like it had been more than five minutes since I'd been there.  (The other one was on, too, but I had been there more recently.)  Could both of my motion-sensor lights have malfunctioned at the same time?  That'd be odd.

Opened door, went in house.  Cat was there.  Belongings were there.  House seemed perfectly normal.  Alarm was still set.

I dropped down to Defcon 2 and checked from the windows -- both outside lights were still on.  And remained on, for over ten minutes and counting.

I don't think I would've realized what had happened if I hadn't gone into the kitchen to brew up a cup of tea.  The clocks on the stove and microwave were blinking.  Ohhh, power failure.  Developed the working hypothesis that when the motion sensor lights are deprived of juice and then re-juiced, they default to on.  Went back outside (with a flashlight) and manually turned the lights off, then on again.

Five minutes later, they went off.